Pope Benedict on The Ascension of the Lord

From today’s Regina Caeli address, before over 100,000 people, as recounted in Asia News Italy:

Before the Regina Caeli, the pontiff emphasised the value of today’s feast, the Ascension of Christ to heaven and his “return to the Father” with his and our humanity. “He”, the pope explains, “in fact came to the world to bring men back to God, not on the level of ideas – like a philosopher or master of wisdom – but really, as a shepherd who wants to lead his sheep back to the fold . . . It is for us that he came down from Heaven, and it is for us that he ascended there after making himself like men in all things, humiliated to the point of death on the cross, and after touching the abyss of the greatest separation from God”.

“God in man – man in God” are “not a theoretical truth, but a real one”, an anchor for the life of all men. “And what does man need more in every age if not this: a solid anchoring for his existence?”.

“After the Ascension”, the pope further recalled, “the first disciples remained gathered together in the Cenacle around the Mother of Jesus, in fervent expectation of the gift of the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus (cf. Acts 1:14)”. From this arises the invitation “to remain united together in prayer, to invoke the gift of the Holy Spirit. In fact, only to those who ‘are born again from above’, meaning from the Holy Spirit, is opened the entrance to the Kingdom of heaven (cf. Jn. 3:3-5), and the first one ‘born again from above’ is precisely the Virgin Mary”.

Time Magazine: Is Liberal Catholicism Dead?

Reminicent of Saint John Bosco’s dream, the magazine reflects on what Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy means to the Church, albeit from only one side–it would have been good to hear some voices from the young and upcoming, rather than from the graying, from Time:

To some extent, liberal Catholicism has been a victim of its own success. Its positions on sex and gender issues have become commonplace in the American Church, diminishing the distinctiveness of the progressives. More importantly, they failed to transform the main body of the Church: John Paul II, a charismatic conservative, enjoyed the third-longest papacy in church history, and refused to budge on the left’s demands; instead, he eventually swept away liberal bishops. The heads at Call to Action grayed, and by the late 1990s, Vatican II progressivism began to look like a self-limited Boomer moment.

Then, the movement received a monstrous reprieve. The priest sex abuse scandal implicated not only the predators, but the superiors who shielded them. John Paul remained mostly silent. A new reform group, Voice of the Faithful, arose; the old anger returned, crystallizing around the battle-cry “They just don’t get it.”

Benedict’s visit, however, changed the dynamic. And that’s a problem for progressives. Says Fr. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Woodstock Theological Center whom Benedict famously removed from his previous job as editor of America, “Reform movements need an enemy to organize against. As most bishops have gotten their acts together on sex abuse, they have looked less like the enemy and more like part of the solution. Enthusiasm for reform declined. With the Pope’s forthright response, it will decline even more.”

Not everyone agrees. Says Voice of the Faithful spokesman John Moynihan, “That’s funny; I just came from a meeting of COR (Catholic Organizations for Reform), and there were a lot of people very buoyed up. We can now say to people, ‘We have made a difference, and if you stick with us we are going to make a further difference’.” Adds Peter Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, now a director of Fordham’s Religion and Culture Center, “I think there is continuity in terms of the issues and the questions about whether Church structures can be altered.” He notes that a social justice group, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, formed just three years ago.

But the familiar progressives-versus-Vatican paradigm seems almost certain to be undone by a looming demographic tsunami. Almost everyone agrees that the “millennial generation,” born in 1980 or later, while sharing liberal views on many issues, has no desire to mount the barricades. Notes Reese, “Younger Catholics don’t argue with the bishops; they simply do what they want or shop for another church.” And Hispanic Catholics, who may be the U.S. majority by 2020, don’t see this as their battle. “I’m sure they�re happy that the celebration of the Eucharist is in the vernacular,” says Tilley, “but they don’t have significant issues connected to Vatican II.”

And so, unless Benedict contradicts in Rome what he said in New York, the Church may have reached a tipping point. This is not to say that the (over-hyped) young Catholic Right will swing into lay dominance. Nor will liberal single-issue groups simply evaporate. But if they cohere again, it will be around different defining issues. “It’s a new ball game,” admits Steinfels. As Tilley wrote recently in Commonweal regarding his fellow theologians, “A new generation has neither the baggage nor the ballast of mine. Theirs is the future. Let’s hope they remember the Council as the most important event in twentieth-century Catholicism.”

The Real Power of Evil

“I decided I did not want to get involved.”

It seems that many knew of the crimes of Joseph Fritzl, but remained silent. This is an oft told story when it comes to abuse and it merits a deep meditation on evil and how if we do not confont it, we become silent accomplices–corporate sin, think about that when you recite the Confiteor…”in what I have failed to do.” From The Sydney Morning Herald:

EVIDENCE of how a wall of silence hid the crimes of Joseph Fritzl is
mounting as it was revealed that his abuse of his daughter Elisabeth as a
teenager was an open secret among people who knew the family.
Former lodgers
at the family house and school friends of Elisabeth admitted on Saturday that
they heard she was being sexually abused and mistreated, yet none contacted
authorities before or after she disappeared.
Joseph Leitner, a former lodger,
said that shortly after he moved in, he learnt that she had been repeatedly
raped by her father.
“I had a good friend from school who was really close to
Elisabeth,” said Mr Leitner, who lived at the house in the small Austrian town
of Amstetten between 1990 and 1994. – “She confided in me, and told me what a
monster Josef was – and what he had done to Elisabeth.
“But I decided I did
not want to get involved. I did not want to get kicked out of the flat, I did
not want to lose it. I kept myself to myself.”

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